Life Style

How yogurt saves the day in summers in Türkiye

While yogurt is one of the finer delicacies in Turkish cuisine and plays a starring role on practically every table in the country, there are a number of unexpected ways this culinary item pops up in summer that many foreigners may not be aware of. For the Türks it is not only a beloved accompaniment to many dishes, but it also features in drinks, soups and mezes as well as adorns many different kebabs. And this makes sense as yogurt is a natural source of the beneficial bacteria known as probiotics, which are live microorganisms that help balance gut bacteria and digestive health as well as supporting a strong immune system...READ THE FULL STORY HERE▶▶▶

These probiotics aid in digestion and rebuild the good bacteria our body needs, especially after taking antibiotics. The yogurt itself is also packed with essential nutrients such as protein, calcium, potassium, phosphorus, and vitamins B2 and B12 and improves nutrient absorption when accompanying other nutrient-rich foods. Regular yogurt consumption is also said to improve overall cardiovascular health.

A fun fact is that dopamine, a neurotransmitter commonly associated with the brain and the emotions of pleasure and reward, and serotonin, a neurotransmitter and hormone which is well-known for its role in regulating mood, emotions, sleep, appetite and overall well-being is actually produced in the gut. Low levels of serotonin have been associated with conditions such as depression and anxiety and 90% of our serotonin is found in the gastro-intestinal tract, which makes yogurt one of the best ways to increase the feel-good sensations we all seek.

Funnily enough, while in the Western world, yogurt is mainly consumed as a snack and is mixed together with fruit, in Türkiye the one tradition that does not exist in the culinary tradition is eating yogurt as a sweet treat. While one can easily find fruit-flavored yogurts in markets, in Türkiye, yogurt is actually consumed primarily alongside or featured in savory dishes. With all of the immense benefits this “superfood” has, it just makes sense to make it a staple in any diet.

Try ayran, it grows on you

First and foremost, one of the most popular ways to consume yogurt is in ayran. Deemed Türkiye’s national beverage, ayran is a drink consisting of watered-down yogurt with added salt. While ayran is consumed year-round in Türkiye, it is especially refreshing and replenishing in summer. Ayran is a go-to drink for many Türks when eating spicy protein-rich meals, but in summer especially, it serves as a quick pick-me-up for replenishing the salt lost in the perspiration caused by the sweltering sun.

Ayran is definitely an acquired taste for those who are unfamiliar with consuming salty drinks, but trust me, once you get accustomed to it, it can end up being crave-worthy. This is especially true for Türkiye’s “yayık ayranı.” Yayık means “churned” in English and it is a frothy version of this savory drink and is only served at the more traditional restaurants that prepare pides, which are flatbreads baked with a variety of toppings ranging from cheese to greens and different meat variations. Served up in a glass mug with a handle, the drink’s signature is that it overflows with frothed-up ayran, which makes it a smooth and airy refreshing delight in the heart of summer. It is also slightly less salty, which admittedly makes it easier to drink.

Making yogurt, ayran at home

Most Turks make their own ayran at home and adjust the salt according to their own preference. That said, in fact, many households will also make their own yogurt and will also source freshly produced milk in order to do so. The process is pretty simple and involves boiling the milk and adding a yogurt started after which it is incubated in glass jars at a warm temperature for several hours for the fermentation process to take place.

“Süzme yogurt” is yogurt that goes through an extra straining process so that it ends up being a much thicker consistency, almost similar to sour cream. While süzme (strained) yogurt is available in markets, although slightly harder to source, interestingly enough at farmer’s markets and in cheese shops, süzme yogurt is the only type of yogurt available for purchase. And trust me, it’s well worth it. This type of yogurt is understandably richer and creamier than the yogurt most will be accustomed to, but it is truly a culinary specialty here in Türkiye that can be consumed on its own or to prepare the rich selection of yogurt-based mezes that are a must at traditional Turkish restaurants.

Yogurt-based mezes

Yogurt is a central ingredient in many mezes, which are dip-like dishes that come in countless varieties. But haydari, köpöğlu and atom are standard meze dishes found in most fish and meat restaurants. Haydari consists of yogurt mixed with garlic and herbs such as mint, köpöğlu is yogurt mixed in with fried eggplant and peppers and atom is yogurt mixed in with spicy peppers. Cacik on the other hand is another popular yogurt-based dish consisting of yogurt, grated cucumbers and mint that is mainly a staple in home cooking.

Refreshing yogurt soups

Summer is a time when yogurt-based soups truly shine. From yayla çorbası to yarma and lebeniye, there is a wide variety of yogurt-based soups prepared with either chickpea, cracked wheat, rice and even small meatballs that are served both warm and cool and inevitably mixed in with mint and thyme, which makes for a delightful combination. Call it Türkiye’s version of the gazpacho, yogurt-based soups are especially refreshing, yet tricky to prepare in that the yogurt must be tempered and stirred consistently to ensure it doesn’t curdle.

Yogurt as staple in savory dishes

While it may come as a surprise, many of Türkiye’s most famed kebabs are served with a dollop of yogurt. From Iskender kebab to çökertme, two popular kebabs, with the first made from doner and the latter with pieces of meat on a bed of shoestring-cut potatoes, yogurt is a side that offers a refreshing respite and balance to these heavy dishes slathered in a rich tomato sauce. Manti are Turkish dumplings traditionally stuffed with minced meat, yet there are vegetarian alternatives. What does not diverge from the norm is that in either case, the dumplings are lathered in yogurt, which is mixed in with garlic and covered in butter and/or a dollop of a thick tomato sauce. In-home cooking, yogurt is a near prerequisite alongside rice and is also an ingredient added in the preparation of tray borek, which is a dish prepared with layers of filo dough, brushed with yogurt and butter and stuffed with a wide variety of ingredients ranging from cheese, spinach and other greens, leeks, or minced meat.

Sunburn solution

Surprisingly enough in summer, yogurt is actually used similar to a topical cream as a soothing element for sunburns. While the evidence of its benefits is somewhat up in the air, many a sunburn is soothed by rubbing yogurt on the skin. For the Türks, yogurt is considered healing as it is delicious and will also be consumed if someone has a stomach ache.

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